Elephant Man

Good 2 Go (VP)

"Collectors Choice 20x4x$200," featuring the work of Dexter Davis. Heights Arts Collaborative, 2163 Lee Road in Cleveland Heights Opening February 7, 216-371-3344. University Campus in Tempe.
As a onetime Bounty Killer protégé and Scare Dem Crew member from Kingston's rough Seaview Gardens district, Elephant Man likes to bark gruff, radio-unfriendly lyrics over the ruggedest raga riddims available. When he calls himself a "bad man" every minute or so, it's tempting to believe him. But as any witness to the Energy God's equipment-climbing stage show knows, no one in dancehall is more playful than Elly. The lisping, yellow-haired pachyderm chews up verses like peanuts and then launches into feel-good choruses punctuated with silly catch phrases such as "Shizzle my nizzle!" and "Yyyep -- good to go!"

Elephant Man's fourth solo album -- his first for VP Records -- gathers 22 singles from the past year (!), just in time for a dancehall-crazy country to claim him. The best, including the ubiquitous smash "Pon de River, Pon de Bank," are a perfect marriage of his toughness and accessibility. But too many misses end up mucking up the transition to international megastardom. Production legends Don Corleon, Dave Kelly, and King Jammy frequently focus on innovation over simple quality, occasionally causing El's tendency to vocally mirror whatever melody he's riding to sound ugly. With his rawness and momentum -- not to mention his label change -- this elephant might seem to be on a rampage toward crossover paydirt. But, to paraphrase his literary namesake, he is not an animal. In fact, for more than half of Good 2 Go's tracks, he is all too human.

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